It’s my pleasure to introduce to you W. Andrew (Andy) Clark, PhD, RD. I can’t quite remember exactly how I met Andy, but it may very well have been at a class reunion. Andy’s wife, Linda McGillen Clark, and I have known each other since we were in Mrs. Martha Mongtomery’s second grade class at North Side School in Johnson City, Tennessee.
Linda and Andy have been married for 33 years, having met on a blind date. The Clark’s are members of Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church and were married there. They are the proud parents of Shelley, and proud grandparents of Shelley’s infant daughter, Clark Elizabeth Patterson, who is 7 months old.
W. Andrew (Andy) Clark, PhD, RD is a Professor of Clinical Nutrition and Associate Dean of Research for the College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences at ETSU. Dr. Clark received his BS in Animal Science from Colorado State University, MS in Animal Science and Agricultural Biochemistry from the University of Delaware and his PhD in Nutrition from North Carolina State University (1980). He has held academic positions at South Dakota State University (1980 – 1983) and ETSU (2002 – present) and had an 18-year tenure at Eastman Chemical Company (1983 – 2001) with assignments in Research, Strategy, Technical Service, Sales and Marketing. Dr. Clark is the co-inventor of AquADEKs developed during his time with Yasoo Health Inc. (2001 – 2003) and is currently the Chief Technology Officer for RTD Neutraceuticals LLC which just recently launched their first product, Lavengel (lavengel.com). You may also know Andy as the killer rhythm guitar player for Bag a’ Cats, Tri-Cities hottest party band (now retired).
Andy has already agreed to follow up this blog with another one about Lavengel, mentioned above. It’s for humans and their canine companions for the treatment of dermal disruptions, shingles, cold sores and MRSA infections. Stay tuned for that!
Here is Dr. Andy Clark’s very interesting and informative blog:
How do you learn to innovate? A friend of mine, Dr. David Roach from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada uses the concept of a “bug list.” If you experience something that “bugs” you, the probability is that it “bugs” someone else as well and if you can find a solution to the problem you have innovated. Your solution, although a milestone in innovation, opens up a can of worms, such as, can you manufacture the product? Is there a large enough demand? Are raw materials readily available? What are the costs to manufacture? Are your margins large enough? What are the marketing channels? And it goes on and on.
Many innovation experts talk about “getting out of the box” or “breaking paradigms” in order to solve problems. Paradigms are real; they are beliefs that individuals or professions have that they believe must be followed. When paradigms are broken and new ideas are implemented, that is when disruptive innovation can take place. Think about the change in televisions from the 1950’s to today. We have changed from black and white televisions powered by vacuum tubes with curved cathode ray screens to flat screen televisions with vibrant colors and sizes that would have been inconceivable 70 years ago. Paradigm breakers are often shunned by the scientific community because the approach they take is so different from what is known. They may actually be considered false prophets, leading the scientific community down the wrong road until the paradigm break creates a leap forward in scientific knowledge, and then we say they are on the cutting edge.
I am a nutritional biochemist, so most of my “innovations or nutritional interventions” try to fix “bugs” through the manipulation of nutrient intake or changing how nutrients are absorbed from the small intestine. Let me give you a few examples. When I entered my PhD program at N.C. State University, I talked to my major professor about many different options for my dissertation research. One particular research question interested me: Could you influence the protein synthesis of hoof tissue in dairy cows?
Dairy farmers were feeding their cows “complete balanced rations” that were formulated to give the animal all of the nutrients needed to maximize milk production while controlling their intake through fiber content. Animals were confined to a large barn that included free stalls for resting, feed troughs for eating (think of a salad bar at a buffet) and a milking parlor. The floors were concrete and the cows’ hooves were worn down due to the abrasive concrete floors, and this created discomfort for the animal. Think about how you feel when you cut your fingernails too close. Cows in pain do not eat and cows that do not eat do not optimize their milk production. You could smooth out the floors, but slick floors result in cows falling and potentially injuring themselves. So, could I increase hoof growth to counteract the wear created by the rough concrete and ultimately eliminate the animal’s discomfort? Questions emerged: what does the amino acid profile of hoof tissue look like? Are there limiting amino acids that I could identify? How would you incorporate those amino acids into the diet and protect them from digestion? How do you measure hoof growth? How do you measure the density of hoof tissue? How can I complete this in 3 years?
We developed the techniques, resolved the nutrition questions and conducted a research trial measuring hoof growth for over 100 cows over the period of one year. We found out that we could not influence hoof growth during the fall, winter or early spring, but once late spring arrived, the cows receiving the supplement had their hoof growth take off! What was causing this? It turns out the photoperiod influences hoof growth through the action of the pineal gland, sensing the increasing amount of daylight as we approached summer. New research questions evolved: Can you influence hoof growth through providing a nutritional supplement and manipulating photoperiod? The short answer is yes, you can, but manipulating photoperiod makes the cows think it is summer and the cows lose the winter hair coat, resulting in shivering cows in the winter in the piedmont in North Carolina. You pull one string and . . . !
The second example is with humans who have cystic fibrosis (CF). I was working for a small startup company in Johnson City, TN (Yasoo Health) and we had received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate if we could change the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients in the small intestine of people with CF. Let me set the scientific stage!
CF clogs the ducts in the lung, creating respiratory problems. It also clogs the ducts of the pancreas and gall bladder, resulting in impaired delivery of pancreatic digestive enzymes and bile (needed to emulsify fats). CF patients take pancreatic enzymes with their meals to assist with breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates to smaller molecules that can be absorbed, but the impaired absorption of fat-soluble nutrients (vitamins A, D, E, K; antioxidants; phytochemicals; etc.) remained because of the lack of bile. Our idea was to change fat-soluble nutrients into water-soluble nutrients, removing the need for bile to emulsify fats prior to absorption and this was a paradigm-breaking idea!
We decided that we would develop an emulsion containing the nutrients needed in the appropriate levels in a 20 ml liquid dose. We ordered our raw materials and started putting together the emulsion, but one of our suppliers provided us with the wrong product. We ordered linolenic acid, an 18 carbon long fatty acid with three double bonds, but the supplier gave us linoleic acid, an 18 carbon long fatty acid with two double bonds. We called the vendor and they told us it would take them two weeks to deliver the linolenic acid, so we decided to practice with the “wrong fatty acid” to gain experience in making the emulsion. We wanted to use linolenic acid because it is an omega-3 fatty acid and is anti-inflammatory, which would help the CF patient with oxidative stress. Once we received the “right acid,” we made new emulsions, but we kept looking at the emulsions made with the “wrong acid” because they were more stable and the product could be added to any other liquid increasing the palatability of the product. We ran a clinical trial and found that this new product, AquADEKs, increased the forced expired air volume of the lungs; decreased infection rates; increased serum levels of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K by over 500%; and reduced the amount of oxidative stress of CF patients. By not being blinded by our “oxidative stress” paradigm, we were able to secure just under one million dollars from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to further develop the product for commercial application. The “wrong acid” allowed us to file for and obtain a patent for AquADEKs, and to create a capsule form of the product allowing for ease of use. Today, most CF patients around the world take AquADEKs as part of their daily medical arsenal.
What is the payoff? As a Christian nutritional biochemist, I believe that God gives us the tools to seek solutions to problems that arise as humans and animals age, fight disease and try to optimize health. Sometimes the solutions create new problems as we saw in the example of the growth of cows’ hooves and photoperiod manipulation, but I continue to be fascinated with the healing properties of nutrition and the resilience of the human body. My daughter is a Physical Therapist who, when on a clinical rotation, treated a small child with CF. She asked the mother how the little girl was doing and the mother replied, “She was having some problems, but we tried this new supplement and she is doing so much better with less lung infections.” My daughter asked her, “If you don’t mind me asking, what supplement is she taking?” The mother replied, “AquADEKs,” to which my daughter said, “My Dad is the co-inventor of AquADEKs.” The mother replied, “Give your Dad a hug for me!” Payment received.
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Copyright August 29, 2020 by W. Andrew (Andy) Clark, PhD, RD, and Rebecca Henderson